Time to dig out your sunscreen, find your flip-flops and say ‘hello’ to Mother Nature again.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll be looking forward to getting out and about with your iPhone/Smartphone, capturing the beautiful, summery outdoors.
So, I thought I would throw together a quick & helpful little guide to improving your summer photo skills!
When I’m out at a photo session with clients, I will always explain that we are looking to shoot in the shade because shooting in direct, unfiltered sunlight can cause harsh shadows, faces lit with half sun & half shade (‘hotspots’) plus a bad case of squinting all around.
But lets face it, if you’re not a professional photographer and you don’t have a super patient family/friends, you most probably wont always be able to scout out the shady spots, especially when you’re sitting in the beach in the mid-day sun.
So, off the top of my head, here are some ideas that I’ve come up with that you can try out with overhead sunlight, in the spirit of improvisation:
1. Create your own shade
You may be outside in the middle of the day but if you start to keep an eye out and you are on the move, you can find perfect patches of shade from trees, buildings, hills, a fleeting cloud if you’re lucky, the side of a cliff casting a shadow on a beach, or even a person (depending on size of subject; i’ll often ask a parent to stand over their child until they have created a full patch of shade over their child.) I have even tried using hats and sunglasses sometimes which can also work a treat! In this image above, we found a fantastic patch of shading coming from a large beach hut.
2. Golden Hour
As Wikipedia explains “In photography, the golden hour is a period shortly after sunrise or before sunset during which daylight is redder and softer than when the sun is higher in the sky. This is the opposite of blue hour, which is the period just before sunrise or just after sunset when light is diffused and even.”
As I’m sure you can imagine, I have shot my fair share of Golden Hour sessions in that hour before sunset, but in almost 12 years of being a portrait photographer, I have only shot one family in that golden hour after sunrise (seriously dedicated clients!!).
Anyway I digress. If you are out for the whole day, you could have in mind what time the Golden Hour will be and have a go at taking photos during this time. If you do manage it, you will see how much softer your images will look and how the shadows start to disappear.
3. Move Around
If you’re taking a photo in direct sunlight and it’s just looking horrible you can try this – keep your subject still and move yourself; take photos from all the different angles and see if any that you shoot seem to make a difference to how your image looks. Then, if there is any level of cooperation and patience from your subject – get them to move. See how they look with the light hitting them from the side, and then try having the light come from behind them (commonly known as ‘backlighting’). Backlit is often way better than having them squinting into the sun. It can cause hazy, less sharp images but you’ve got to work with what you have.
Remember to go back to your images afterwards and see which composition was the most ideal from all the ones you tried out.
4. Try a Silhouette
Ok, this may be a bit off topic because i said you’d be shooting outdoors in direct sunlight, but maybe you stayed out all day and now the sun is going down? Yes? ok! So this is a great time to take Silhouette photos. They take some practice but once you get the hang of it, they are so much fun.
The main aim is to make sure that your subject stands out from your background. And we do this mainly by making sure that your background is brighter than your subject.
Your subject needs to be clear and isolated; so if you have more than one person in the frame, make sure there’s space between them so that you can distinguish the shapes of each person.
Open areas work the best e.g.; with the open sky as your backdrop like in this image below:
(I was lying down on my stomach so that I could get as much sky in the frame as possible. The fact that she was running was perfect as it created that distinction between her body, legs, arms & even her ponytail!)
5. Shadows & Reflections
When you’re taking photos in strong sunlight, you’ll notice the strong shadows, and you may also notice how the light can even make portions of your image disappear. In this image, I managed to take advantage of the situation by capitalising on the really strong reflections that were showing up in the water. It’s one of my favourite images from the session, even though the left side of the image is hazy from the bright sun.
I used the bright sun to my advantage by capturing the dramatic reflections, and coupled with the family’s interaction, we worked with what we had and created a beautiful, fun image.
I would truly love to hear your feedback and even see you share some shots that you took using these tips!
You can find me on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sarahraanan
Have a fantastic summer & don’t forget your sunscreen!